Thursday, December 22, 2011

Defiant G20 protester jailed 10 months

Dec. 20, 2011 by Peter Small Toronto Star

One of the most prominent anti-G20 Toronto anarchists remained defiant
Tuesday while being sentenced to 10 months in jail for counselling

“I stand here guilty of breaking your laws, not the laws of justice,” Leah
Henderson, 27, told provincial court Justice Lloyd Budzinsky.

“I submit to your jails because today you hold all the weapons,” she told
a Finch Ave. W. courtroom packed with her supporters.

Henderson and her then-boyfriend, Alex Hundert, were arrested in their
west Toronto apartment after police stormed in during the early hours of
June 26, 2010, the second day of the G20 summit.

She did not participate in protests where some people smashed windows and
set fire to police cruisers, but pleaded guilty Nov. 22 to counselling
others to commit mischief.

It has not been proved that anyone she advised went on to commit crimes.

“This entire prosecution was borne of the politics of fear — fear of our
ideas,” said the self-described anarchist.

She told the judge she responded to the G20 as a person of conscience and
as part of a community that envisages a “future that is truly free.”

Defence lawyer Brydie Bethell said Henderson, who grew up in Alberta, is
committed to social justice and the anarchist ideal of non-hierarchical,
locally driven communities.

But Crown prosecutor Jason Miller said Henderson and others used the G20
“to exercise dissent in a criminal and violent fashion,” thus harming the
freedom of expression of peaceful demonstrators.

Miller said she has shown a degree of maturity lacking in many fellow
accused. “Ms Henderson knew better,” he said.

“It seems apparent to me that Ms Henderson realized at some point that
this got away from her.”

During Miller’s comments, some spectators sniggered, drawing a warning
from the judge.

The judge said Henderson’s politics and beliefs are not being punished,
just her criminal behaviour. “Your approach was to put your beliefs above
the safety … of others,” he said.

He accepted a joint sentencing submission from defence and Crown, sending
her to jail for 10 months on top of the 24 days she spent in custody
before making bail.

Henderson smiled as she was handcuffed to be led away, friends chanting:
“Leah, Leah, Leah.”

On Nov. 22, in the middle of a preliminary hearing, she and five others
pleaded guilty to counselling mischief.

Erik Lankin, 24; Peter Hopperton, 25; and Adam Lewis, 23, have all been
sentenced for their roles.

Amanda Hiscocks, 37, and Hundert, 31, who both pleaded guilty to an
additional charge of counselling to obstruct a peace officer, are yet to
be sentenced.

Leah's statement to the court and letter to community

Below you will find the statement that I read to the court, followed by a
letter to my community.

Statement read in court at sentencing hearing:

All you need to know about me is that I am a person of conscience, I came
to this situation from a place of morality within myself, and I am a
member of a community that shares that morality and a powerful vision for
a future that is truly free.

I stand here guilty of breaking your laws, not the laws of justice.

The court has been told, “this prosecution is not political”, and that
this has been done to protect society from danger.

The truth is this entire prosecution is born from the politics of fear.
Fear of our ideas, fear of what we represent:


A Freedom that your jails will not confine.

I am not here for approval.

I am here because this is what stands for justice on this colonized land.

Though I stand here being judged by you, I am accountable to more, that is
beyond these walls.

I am accountable to the indigenous communities whose lands we are on. To
the earth who we’re daily assaulting with saws, and chemicals. To the
elders in my life and to the generations yet to come.

The laws that govern our societies are not laws of community, or laws of
consensus, they are laws of oppression. Laws that underpay and overwork
mothers. That deport the poor and those of colour. Laws that rob
Indigenous Nations of their traditions, their land, their childhoods. Laws
that blame the unemployed and rewards those that get rich on their backs.

I have been deeply and profoundly affected by this process, but have not
been changed by it. I have been moved by the incredible support that I
have received, far beyond what I could have imagined. It has been made
more clear to me through this process that this vision for the future is
part of a groundswell.

I want to say thank you to everyone that has supported me, thank you to my
friends, my family and my lawyer.

I submit to your jails because today you hold many of the weapons, and
many people under your spell. A day is coming when that will not be so.

A day is coming where the distorted mirror that hides the lies of
capitalism and colonialism will shatter.

Sometimes a cupcake, is just a cupcake.

A Letter to my community:
As most of you probably know by now, I have decided to plead guilty to the
charge of counseling to commit mischief. Originally, I along with 20
others was charged with four counts of conspiracy in what was called the
G20 main conspiracy group.

I am writing because the past year and a half of facing these charges and
living under bail conditions has meant that I have not been able to talk
as openly as I would have liked. My voice has been muzzled by the state,
which has served as a powerful reminder of the many voices that are
muzzled by the daily colonialism, patriarchy, racism and violence of the
world. While the silencing of my voice has an end date, the work to hear
the chorus of our grandmothers and the Indigenous Peoples whose land we
stand on is

I never considered that the people in power would see me, my community and
our values as anything other than a threat — because we are a threat. We
are working to tear this system down and to make space for life-centered
systems that make the 1% irrelevant. Those who benefit from the status quo
have always tried to crush that.

I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat. I
want to tell you that you might be too. I want to tell you that this is
something we need to prepare for. I want to tell you that the risk of
incarceration alone should not determine our organizing.

My skills and experience — as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal
professional and as someone linking different communities and movements —
were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a
“brainwasher” and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction.
During the week of the G8 & G20 summits, the police targeted legal
observers, street medics and independent media. It is clear that the
skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on
their systems and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are
most afraid of.

I organize openly as an anti-colonial, anti-capitalist anarchist. My
organizing is focused on movement building, and this commitment to build
skill sets and support other activists is another part of why the state
has targeted me. However, this attempt to deter me has failed, just as it
has failed to deter thousands of others similarly facing police brutality
and jail. I am strengthened in my resolve to build communities of
resistance. We are building the structures of a new kind of society in the
midst of the old, and we cannot do that without a commitment to
skill-sharing, mutual aid and collective liberation.

Since the G8 & G20 protests, Toronto (and beyond) has witnessed a wave of
repression that has seen the justice system trap people and their
communities in its jaws, using all of their time and energy to survive the
resource-intensive and soul-sucking legal process. The state hoped that
there would be no energy left to fight against them as they cut funding to
essential services, ignored self-determination, and further criminalized
poor people, migrants and people of colour.

They were wrong.

The awe-inspiring and humbling surprise in all of this is that we have
refused to be crushed and, in fact, we have grown in strategy, strength
and numbers: in Toronto, I’ve seen the anti-austerity movements grow with
campaigns like “Stop the Cuts”; in Grassy Narrows, one day of powerful
mobilization forced the government to listen to the community’s demands;
globally, there has been a continued, intensified uprising that is showing
collective dissatisfaction with the capitalist system and austerity agenda
that the G8 & G20 perpetuate.

I took this plea willingly. I consented today to confine myself to a cage,
away from the people, work and struggles that I am connected to. I did
this for a reason.

As a group of accused, we come to organizing with different access to
power. When the 17 of us found ourselves around a table facing a trial,
continued disruption of our lives and livelihoods, possible convictions,
jail sentences and deportations, it became essential that some of us plead
guilty to ensure that the rest walk free.

It was a decision that could not be and was not taken lightly. I was
inspired, along with the rest of the 17, by a proud history of political
trials, where people have chosen to plead guilty to end the legal process?
if it resulted in the best possible deal for all involved.

This plea is not a defeat. I am energized. I am hopeful knowing that we
have each other’s back and will take care of each other, even if it means
that some of us go to jail. I am proud. I hope you are too.

I am incredibly grateful for the people in my life who have been
supporting me and who will continue to do so.

To the women who have carried me through this — you are my faeries with
magick wands and combat boots; you’ve granted me wishes and kicked the
crap out of anything I couldn’t handle. Your care and support is
revolutionary. May it become less invisible to the world.

To my family — every day I am grateful for your unconditional love and
support; that I chose you when I came into this world is perhaps the
greatest gift I have given to myself.

To my community — you have grown and expanded with me since my arrest;
this growth is a testament to our strength.

To my sureties — you took me out into the world when no one else could;
you housed me, sat on absurdly uncomfortable court benches while pregnant
and while waiting to see if your own child would be released from custody.

To the assistants, receptionists, lawyers, and legal workers that
represented us — thank you for your dedication and commitment.

To my friends that stayed in to keep me company, moved me, brought me
comfort and, most importantly, helped me to laugh and cry and rage-craft
through this — I hope that I can give half as much to you as I have

To my co-evils (otherwise known as co-accused):

“While I can’t have you, I long for you… I spin worlds where we could be
together. I dream you.” – Jeannette Winterson

I’ve missed you, friends. After all this time, my heart still beats as one
with yours. But things have changed, we have grown, my heartbeat sounds
different — I’m sure yours does too. Since we became wrapped up in this
together, I have carried you with me everywhere I go. I’m excited to begin
new relationships with you that don’t have the state stuck in between us.
Thank you for all that you have been through this process:
fierce,vulnerable, honest, inspiring, loving, strong, and deeply committed
to working collectively, challenging oppression and building communities
of resistance.

There is a complex combination of rage and inspiration that this
experience has given me that cannot be summed up in one statement, let
alone a lifetime of statements, but moving forward, I am energized and
filled with hope that we will continue to struggle together in creative,
supportive and inspiring ways. I would say see you in the streets, but if
you know me, you know that I’m more excited to see you in a meeting.

With love, rage and solidarity,

Please write to me! If you don’t know what to write, send my a copy of
your favourite poem(s), recipes, you really like or short stories.

Leah Henderson
c/o Vanier Centre for Women
655 Martin Street, Box 1040
Milton ON L9T 5E6

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